Comment on Cultural Diplomacy

By H.E. Amb. Paula Dobriansky (Former under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs – ICD Advisory Board Member)


The USA Meets Europe’s (USAME) “Forum for Young Leaders”, supported by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, is a meaningful and productive program that empowers the next generation. As former Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and director of the Washington Office of the Council of Foreign Relations, I have witnessed firsthand how integral a role cultural diplomacy plays in transatlantic relations, in particular, and foreign policy, in general.

The importance of adept diplomacy in successful foreign policy is rather widely accepted. Cultural diplomacy, however, is too frequently overlooked as a tool for strengthening the bonds between nations. In his book “Outliers”, author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell highlights the degree to which culture defines individuals, ethnic groups and even entire countries. He states that “cultural legacies are powerful forces…They persist, generation after generation, and…play such a role in directing attitudes and behavior that we cannot make sense of our world without them”. All strong relationships grow from a fundamental component—understanding. Thus, because culture is crucial in shaping peoples and the nations from which they come, cultural diplomacy is a means through which countries can attempt to better comprehend each other. 

The United States and Europe have a longstanding history of multilateralism and strong ties, both of which boil down to a common origin—mutual cultural respect. USAME has distinguished itself because it recognizes the importance of this factor.  International relations are multi-faceted, in that they rely on not just cultural, but also political, social and economic cooperation among nations to succeed. By bringing together young leaders from both sides of the Atlantic and exposing them to these fundamental pillars of foreign policy, USAME promotes the friendship and understanding that continues to strengthen our transatlantic relationship every day.